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5 Sayings from the Desert Mothers on how to deal with adversity


Ken Ward | CC BY 2.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 01/22/18

These holy women show us what to do in difficult situations.

While they are often forgotten by history, there were many women who followed the example of St. Anthony the Abbot in the 4th century. They freely chose the ascetic life and spent their days in solitude and prayer in the Egyptian desert.

The Desert Mothers, as they are often called, had a wealth of spiritual wisdom that they passed on to their disciples and that was eventually compiled into a collection called Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Here is brief selection of five sayings from these heroic and holy women on how to deal with adversity.

Amma Syncletica said, “Many are the wiles ofthe devil. If he is not able to disturb the soul by means of poverty, he suggests riches as an attraction. If he has not won the victory by insults and disgrace, he suggests praise and glory. Overcome by health, he makes the body ill. Not having been able to seduce it through pleasures, he tries to overthrow it by involuntary sufferings. He joins to this, very severe illness, to disturb the faint-hearted in their love of God … Rejoice that God visits you and keep this blessed saying on your lips: ‘The Lord has chastened me sorely but he has not given me over unto death.’ (Ps. 118.18) … By this share of wretchedness you will be made perfect.”Amma Syncletica said, “You were iron, but fire has burnt the rust off you. If you are righteous and fall ill, you will go from strength to strength. Are you gold? You will pass through fire purged. Have you been given a thorn in the flesh? (2 Cor. 12.1) Exult, and see who else was treated like that; it is an honor to have the same sufferings as Paul.”She also said, “Imitate the publican, and you will not be condemned with the Pharisee. Choose the meekness of Moses and you will find your heart which is a rock changed into a spring of water.”Amma Theodora asked Archbishop Theophilus about some words of the apostle saying, “What does this mean, ‘Knowing how to profit by circumstances’?” (Col. 4, 5) He said to her, “This saying shows us how to profit at all times. For example, is it a time of excess for you? By humility and patience buy up the time of excess, and draw profit from it. Is it the time of shame? Buy it up by means of resignation and win it. So everything that goes against us can, if we wish, become profitable to us.”Amma Theodora also said, “There was a monk, who, because of the great number of his temptations said, ‘I will go away from here.’ As he was putting on his sandals, he saw another man who was also putting on his sandals and this other monk said to him, ‘Is it on my account that you are going away? Because I go before you wherever you are going.'”


Read more:
5 Sayings from the Desert Mothers to help revive your spiritual life

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